Thursday, January 04, 2007

A Heart of Wisdom: The Insignificance of Man

If you’re just joining in, I’m in the midst of posting some reflections on Psalm 90, exploring how we can learn to "number our days, that we may get a heart of wisdom" (v.12). We can only live our days wisely when we see God clearly, and this series of posts is covering four qualities of a "heart of wisdom" based on my Dec. 31 sermon on Psalm 90. In my last post, I discussed the first: "A person with a heart of wisdom stands in awe of the eternal God." The second quality of a "heart of wisdom" is this:

A heart of wisdom recognizes man’s insignificance.

Pastor James Montgomery Boice once wrote that Psalm 90 is "probably the greatest passage in the Bible contrasting the grandeur of God with man’s frailty." And what a contrast it is!

God exists outside the confines of human measurements of time. Verse 4 says "For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past..." A millennium, a massive length of time in human history, is like a day to him.

But we measure our lives in decades. Verse 10 points out that we’re doing well if we live 70 or 80 years. Compared to God, we’re like a gnat that lives for a day. Our days, Moses says, are "soon gone and we fly away."

It might not sound pleasant or uplifting to think about how quickly life is going to be over, but coming to grips with this fact is what it means to number your days. You’ll only have wisdom—you’ll only live skillfully—if you face the reality that human life is fleeting.

Have you ever noticed that one of the marks of maturity and wisdom is the ability to rightly perceive lengths of time? You know how some people have bad depth perception? Well, many people have really bad "time perception."

When you’re a kid you have zero time perception. I’m sure you parents out there have noticed this—you call your kids and say, "We’re leaving the house in 2 minutes!" and they say, "Oh, great. 2 minutes. Let’s get Monopoly out," or "Let’s build a tree fort." They have no idea how quickly 2 minutes will go by. If you tell them Christmas is in 8 days, it’s an eternity to them. "8 days! That’s going to take forever."

But the older and wiser a person becomes, the more he sees that life flies by. You see this when you look back on a season of your life that is past. Numbering our days involves seeing that human life is over in an instant. Do you see how this makes us wise? It points us to the fact that God is significant and man is not. It humbles us.

We like to live our lives in the delicious illusion of self-importance. We think of ourselves as strong, as powerful, as significant. We humans compare ourselves to images of greatness—mankind is like a mighty towering tree, or maybe a skyscraper stretching into the sky. Or man is like a huge rocket blasting into the sky leaving the earth behind as we conquer unknown corners of the universe...

But God picks other analogies to describe man. Verse 5 says that we’re like a dream. "You mean…like a really nice dream?" No, like a dream that you don’t really remember in the morning. It gets better. He says we’re grass. Not very flattering. "Like grass that is renewed in the morning; in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers." Man at his most impressive is like grass that lasts for a day. It’s grows up in the morning but by the end of the day it has faded.

Last week we witnessed the death of a former President of our country and the death of the dictator Saddam Hussein. For two years Gerald Ford was the most powerful man in America. For decades Saddam Hussein held absolute power over millions of Iraqis. But now they’re gone. They’ve been "[swept] away as with a flood; they are like a dream." For awhile they’ll be remembered and written about, but very quickly they’ll be a distant and forgotten memory. So will we all.

Do you have great thoughts of yourself? Are you caught up in the legacy you’re hoping to build? Are you ignoring God as you live for your own glory? DON'T BE A FOOL. Man is insignificant. Life is fleeting. Wisdom comes from numbering one's days and seeing how small our time on earth really is in light of God’s eternal glory.

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